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Director: David Soren
Release date:
May 21, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

In Captain Underpants two boys, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, write and draw comic book stories together. Unfortunately, their elementary school is the dullest, most depressing place on earth, thanks to the mean principal, Mr. Krupp. But then one day, somehow their comic book hero, Captain Underpants, comes alive, and he is even dumber than George and Harold had imagined…

This movie was one of the surprises of 2017. I saw this movie in a plane, not expecting much from a film with such a childish title, but boy, was I pleasantly surprised! Compared to this film most of the American computer-animated output of the 2010s feels pretty generic. Dreamworks’ ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’, on the other hand, boasts visuals that are incomparable to any other animated feature.

Moreover, the film’s story is delightfully unpredictable, and knows neither dull moment nor any of the cliches invading almost every American animated feature of the era. Even the moral, the value of laughter and that of friendship, is played rather casually, and never takes over from the sheer mayhem put on the screen. On the contrary, a lot of what’s happening on the screen is pleasantly over the top. I liked the use of Yello’s song ‘Oh Yeah’ when the two children make a particularly cool entrance, and when later an Einstein-like villain from ‘New Switzerland’ joins in, mayhem is ensured.

Most of the film is genuinely silly, and even though its target audience obviously is about as old as George and Harold, the film is enjoyable to everyone. What certainly helps is the great voice cast. Both George and Harold are voiced by adults (Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch), and Ed Helms does a great job as both Mr. Krupp and Captain Underpants. It’s also interesting to note that Mr. Krupp isn’t only bad, he’s depicted as a shy and lonesome human, too.

Of course, much of the charm of ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ comes from the original source material, the illustrated children’s book series by American author and illustrator Dav Pilkey, which already counted twelve volumes by the time this movie was made. The film is apparently based on the first and fourth volume first four volumes [thanks Jonathan Wilson for the correction]. During production Pilkey worked closely together with director David Soren, and that certainly has paid off.

The film has translated Pilkey’s charming drawing style into 3D computer animation surprisingly well. What’s better, several parts are animated in 2D, in the children’s comic book style, there’s even a sequence in cut-out animation. Even the animation during the end titles is nice to watch. But the most outlandish sequence comes when Harold’s imagination of the future runs away with him. This scene was done by Screen Novelties in live action, with sock puppets, with hilarious results.

In all, ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ is a pleasant and very welcome diversion from Dreamworks, and one of the best animated movies of 2017, which with e.g., ‘Coco’ and ‘The Breadwinner’ was a strong animated feature year, anyway.

Watch the trailer for the ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ is available on Blu-Ray and DVD

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